A Windows User Installs Ubuntu Linux

An older model laptop showed up at our home this summer; the HP Pavilion DV6000 to be exact. Kim has mentioned how convenient it would be to have a laptop she could keep upstairs while working in the kitchen or to take the beach during the summer. Or maybe it was her subtle way of asking for an iPad. I’ll never know.

Although this HP was a few years old, I figured it should fill in nicely as a kitchen computer.

One week into ownership, Kai managed to pry off a dozen keys. We tried to line up the tiny springs and keys, but that only resulted in frustration. My father-in-law suggested I search for a keyboard on eBay when I was about to toss the laptop on the scrap heap. For about twenty bucks, I was able to replace the keyboard and assumed we were back in business. We were for a while.

But Windows XP began giving us problems. It would send the laptop into death mode (sleep mode) and never recover. Only a hard boot would return the machine to Windows, but only temporarily. I assumed Windows 7 would fix the problem. So I spent an evening installing Windows 7 Home Premium.  The installation took less than forty minutes but downloading and installing the dozens of patches and driver updates took a few hours. This isn’t uncommon on such an older machine.

Windows 7 worked great for a few weeks. A fresh Windows 7 install seemed to fix the dreaded sleep mode issue. But its performance was still incredibly sluggish. Boot times took minutes. Programs wouldn’t launch quickly. Or when they did, they crashed under minimal use. I began to wonder if underlying problems with the hardware were the real culprits. I ran Windows update and installed drivers from the HP website. I’ve experienced the havoc a corrupted driver can cause, but Device Manager told me everything looked fine.

As I considered my options, (tossing the laptop into my neighbors yard was on the list as was taking a baseball bat to it) I tweeted my dilemma. I’ve installed Windows 7 on several older systems, and each time, they came to life and performed at a much higher level than when they had XP or Vista installed. Windows 7 powers our three workstations at home, and we’ve had no major issues. Say what you will about Vista, but Microsoft came through in a big way with a solid product in 7. I could not figure why I could not get this laptop running smoothly.

Several of my followers on Twitter suggested installing Ubuntu Linux. My first thought was they must be drunk or incredibly geeky. Given that Kim is the primary user of the laptop, installing any version of Linux sounded like a recipe for marital problems. Kim is very tech savvy, but installing Linux on her laptop might just might push her into the Apple store. I’ve run various distributions of Linux for many years, but not on the desktop. I manage several blogs that run on Linux so my experience is on the server side of the house. Kim has been a life-long Windows user. I must be crazy. But I had nothing to lose. Even if Ubuntu didn’t work out, I’ve heard good things about and have wanted to try it out for a while. At the very least, maybe I’ll learn something.

install

So I decided to check out the Ubuntu website. I’ve heard that Ubuntu is user friendly. But compared to what? FreeBSD? The price was right (free) and the screenshots looked promising so I decided to give it a shot. I downloaded the desktop version and burned an ISO to a USB stick. From there, I installed Ubuntu in about 40 minutes. Like Windows, it has a built in software/drive update feature that worked incredibly well. It found my video card and my wireless adapter on the first pass. Impressive.

When the installation finished, Ubuntu suggested I reboot. I turned back to my computer for what seemed like 15 seconds and was absolutely shocked at how fast the laptop returned to the login screen. I didn’t believe it. So I held the power button down for a few seconds to force a cold reboot. Again, the login screen popped up in about 15 seconds. Stunning. I’ve never seen this type of performance on this old HP.

 boot

The speed! The speed! That’s been the theme from the first full day living with Linux on the laptop. I am keeping my fingers crossed it lasts. I installed Google Chrome for Linux, and it felt faster than the version of Firefox that installed with Ubuntu. Kim primarily needs access to a web browser for email, Facebook, and browsing. This resurrected HP handles those tasks with aplomb. I didn’t have time to show Kim around the UI this morning. But when I came home, she already had a number of Chrome tabs open while searching for recipes. Off to a good start.

If you’ve never seen the Ubuntu user interface, I think you’ll be surprised at how user friendly and polished it is. Even life-long Windows users should feel right at home. Yes, it’s different. But it’s certainly not difficult. I even found it fun to use while I discovered new ways of looking at an operating system.

desktop

Let’s hope it continues. Maybe I’ll look back and wonder why I didn’t try Ubuntu sooner. So far, it appears to be a great solution for older computers.

21 thoughts on “A Windows User Installs Ubuntu Linux

  1. Great to hear. It is a great solution for older computers. I am using Ubuntu on 7 and 8 year-old PCs and I’m happy. I don’t have a quad-core computer yet – only a dual-core AMD mini-notebook which also runs Ubuntu. I also have an old Celeron notebook and a newer Atom netbook both running only Ubuntu.

    Yes, the speed should last. Ubuntu is not prone to the aging effect that Windows is victim to.

    If you need help with Ubuntu, remember to Google the problem to find the solutions and to access the Ubuntu community forums. You’ll find a great bunch of users who work hard with coming up with the solutions.

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  2. Orionds, that’s a great idea to lean on the forums for help. I’m sure I’ll have questions. So far, I’m very impressed with Ubuntu. It doesn’t feel like the traditional Linux I played around with years ago. This feels like a modern OS. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised but the last time I played around on Red Hat it felt like it belonged on a server rather than desktop. Makes me wonder how it would run on my higher end work station.

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  3. The truth when using an old computer is that both Windows or Linux are sluggish. For a computer of the type DV 6000 you described which is not very old, you can notice a difference. But using Linux (Ubuntu or derivatives) on a new machine is something unbelievable. I formatted with Ubuntu 10.10 my brand new desktop HP Pavillion and you can feel the sense of the speed. It boots in a glance and shutdown in a snap. I used it with Win7 in double boot and the difference is astonishing! No sir! The only problem is that buying a computer the sell you Windows preinstalled. It’s a fraud!

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  4. Mate, every time I install ubuntu on a friends laptop they are simply blown away by it. Over the next couple of years I think there will be a significant but silent shift to Linux. knowing the percentage share of Linux is an awkward set of guesses. But I have noted that the Linux mags in my local bookshop/newsagents are now selling out. A small point, but a telling one I think. I hope you continue to enjoy Linux – once you get used to it, windows seems hard, clunky, inflexible and dated.

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  5. Chickenwings, I may still get her an iPad. But I’m not sure that’s the best option for how she plans to use this laptop, not to mention that I could buy a cheap laptop for the price of an iPad. Having said that, I’d still like one. But this post was about Ubuntu and I continue to be impressed with how it performs.

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  6. It’s good to hear that Ubuntu also produces speed improvements on more modern computers. All I know is that XP and Windows 7 ran very slow on this HP laptop yet Ubuntu feels snappy. Will it last? I sure hope it does.

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  7. I find it funny that you find Ubuntu fast 🙂 Ubuntu’s one of the slowest desktop Linux distros out there. But, granted, since the OS infrastructure as you likely know is different, it won’t slow over time just through usage like Windows.

    I don’t run Ubuntu (too slow 🙂 or this, http://blog.linuxmint.com/?p=1581

    but if you want real user friendliness in Linux, try it. It’s Ubuntu enhanced.

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  8. @Llewton, I’m new to desktop Linux and that’s why I went with the suggest Ubuntu distribution. Let me get my feet wet with it. Maybe use it for a while and then I can see what else is out there. Also keep in mind this is for my spouse. So even if other distros are faster, they must be easy for her (and my kids) to use. I will check out Linux Mint that you linked to. I may dual boot my workstation.

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  9. Love it! Great story and man am I not surprised. Ha.
    Now I just need an extra machine to run Ubuntu on.

    Good job and glad you shared the story.
    Todd
    Pls check out my fledgling site – noobart.com

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  10. Good story. I am Windows user through and through but have to say, for old pcs, Jolicloud may be the answer. Version 1.0 was meant only for netbooks but the latest version (1.1) is for any old pc.It is a version of Ubuntu and if you want to just try it you can install it on a Windows box and reboot. No mucking about with partitions.
    Amazing part, everything is kept synced including Apps. Install and app on one box and it will appear on another box.
    I’ve only started to use it but is is very cool especially for web based stuff.

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    1. @Scott, it’s been a while since I’ve heard of Jolicloud. I’ll have to research it again. Sounds ideal for web-based projects.

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  11. I read your post carefully, and with that in mind I suggested Mint as a Linux (it’s based on Ubuntu) that’s even more user friendly and ready out of the box, with all the codecs, etc. People really praise it as the perfect beginner’s Linux, very stable, safe and full-featured.

    I didn’t go into which Linux I use because it’s not relevant here 🙂 but it is faster 😉

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  12. @llewton, I use both Mint and Ubuntu. I see no apparent difference in speed between the two. Mint includes the non-free codecs, etc. that Ubuntu does not include and the user interface is a lot like XP so for Windows users it is easier to get used to.

    I am a teacher and a very funny thing is my students prefer the Ubuntu Gnome interface to that of Mint and they all use Ubuntu and not Mint despite my having introduced and let them use Mint. As a result, I have removed Mint from my notebooks and netbooks which I let them use and now they all boot into Ubuntu. I have removed XP from them too.

    None of the student Ubuntu users have upgraded from XP to Win 7. One student removed Win 7 and reinstalled XP after Win 7 proved to get “fat” too fast for his PC – eating more ram and slowing down with age. This does not happen with Ubuntu. Another student has used Ubuntu 9.04 for over a year on his old notebook (7 years) and it’s just as fast as day one and he loves it.

    I agree with the comments here that there is a silent and unnoticed growth of Linux use on the desktop and the “official” stats do not show this. Also, yes, Ubuntu is a speed demon on dual and quad-core machines.

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  13. As for the iPad, Brett, don’t get it yet. I am trying some 7-inch China APads and again, my students love them as well as adults – their fathers and an IT professional. These for the moment run Android 1.6. I was told 2.2 is a lot better.

    For 2.2, they cost about double US$200 to 250. For what your wife needs, they are more than adequate and they include SD card, USB, 3G, wi-fi and some even GPS functionality. The 7-inch models fit in one hand. More than half the people who have tried these APads have asked to be included in the next purchase (as we order in bulk).

    So, wait a bit, unless your wife insists that she is not happy with the notebook and by the time Android 3.0 comes out, you will be able to get a much better deal than the iPad (my opinion only of course) without the lock-in.

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  14. It’s good to hear that Ubuntu also produces speed improvements on more modern computers. All I know is that XP and Windows 7 ran very slow on this HP laptop yet Ubuntu feels snappy. Will it last? I sure hope it does.

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  15. “Only a hard boot would return the machine to Windows, but only temporarily. I assumed Windows 7 would fix the problem. So I spent an evening installing Windows 7 Home Premium.”

    There was your first mistake. Windows 7 is not really that different from XP. Chances are if XP hates your hardware for no reason, 7 will too.

    “Windows 7 worked great for a few weeks. A fresh Windows 7 install seemed to fix the dreaded sleep mode issue. But its performance was still incredibly sluggish. Boot times took minutes. Programs wouldn’t launch quickly. Or when they did, they crashed under minimal use.”

    Your other mistake: Assuming that upgrading Windows might actually solve your problems. Sure, sometimes it does, but as I said in the paragraph above, When Microsoft upgrades Windows, they don’t really change much, they just smear on more cruft.

    “Say what you will about Vista, but Microsoft came through in a big way with a solid product in 7.”

    If you says so. It’s really pretty much just XP with a Vista-style interface glued on top of it. Not to mention it ripped off a lot of Linux features in its quest to be better than Vista. Granted, they succeeded in making Windows 7 better than Vista, but there’s still no real convincing reason why 7 should be used over XP.

    “Several of my followers on Twitter suggested installing Ubuntu Linux. My first thought was they must be drunk or incredibly geeky.”

    Maybe drunk. Ubuntu’s not the best Linux. It might be a good step away from Windows, but when held up against most major distributions, the only thing Ubuntu has on its side is user friendliness. If she’s a true tech savvy she might have actually appreciated Debian or Arch more, provided she’d be willing to put time into them, of course.

    “I’ve run various distributions of Linux for many years, but not on the desktop. I manage several blogs that run on Linux so my experience is on the server side of the house.”

    I am glad you had enough sense to use Linux on servers instead of Windows Server. Windows might be “good” on the desktop, it’s a pile on servers. And I’ve seen a lot of people who swear by Windows on the desktop who assume that just because Windows is easy to set up its suddenly ideal for servers, simply because they don’t have to configure anything. I usually take pains that Linux is used by most server pros for a reason, but it’s like shrieking at a wall.

    Actually, what surprises me about that statement is if you had enough server experience with Linux why you didn’t pick up on certain characteristics it exhibited that make it ideal for the desktop: Speed, power, flexibility, stability, security. Not a lot of people put as much stake into those in a desktop operating system, but they have their uses, even for non-power users.

    “So I decided to check out the Ubuntu website. I’ve heard that Ubuntu is user friendly. But compared to what? FreeBSD?”

    As I said, though in other categories, Ubuntu leaves much to be desired, it can definitely make life easier on users of even Windows. Thing is, if you’re already Linux-savvy, you’re not likely to enjoy Ubuntu as much. I come to believe Ubuntu was a distro designed to be outgrown once a user is fully comfortable.

    “When the installation finished, Ubuntu suggested I reboot. I turned back to my computer for what seemed like 15 seconds and was absolutely shocked at how fast the laptop returned to the login screen. I didn’t believe it. So I held the power button down for a few seconds to force a cold reboot. Again, the login screen popped up in about 15 seconds. Stunning. I’ve never seen this type of performance on this old HP.”

    You know, Ubuntu’s actually among the slower distributions and it boots that fast on older hardware. That’s because Linux doesn’t dawdle. It sets itself up and most init scripts you’ll see take a very direct, but reliable, approach to getting userspace going. Remember, there’s people who are known for trying to get a 5-seconds-or-less boot time on their systems. Some even succeeded.

    “I installed Google Chrome for Linux, and it felt faster than the version of Firefox that installed with Ubuntu.”

    Firefox isn’t exactly heralded for its speed. What it *is* praised for is how solid a web browser it is, along with the fact that it has extensions for just about any purpose you can think of. Personally, I just use Chromium (The “development” version of Chrome.). I like the speed, though it took a bit for me to get weaned off the extensions.

    “If you’ve never seen the Ubuntu user interface, I think you’ll be surprised at how user friendly and polished it is. Even life-long Windows users should feel right at home.”

    Though I personally prefer KDE, you’re actually right. GNOME in most configurations can outdo Windows’ particular characteristics. Well.. Windows XP. Windows 7 looks a lot nicer than GNOME, but that’s where KDE comes in. KDE outshines Windows 7. (Even after a lot of 7’s UI cues were lifted from KDE.) This is why whenever a troll says Linux will never make it on the desktop, that’s all they’re doing: Trolling. They’re far from correct.

    Also, what I didn’t say in my StumbleUpon review of this: About the iPad, don’t waste your money, it’s all hype and very little payoff, especially when held up against other tablet devices and PCs in comparison. If you MUST have a tablet, get an Android tablet. Augen makes excellent tablets that run on Android like a dream. Oh, and did I mention that because they’re Android, they’re Linux as well? Also, unlike an iPad you WILL get Flash on an Android tablet.

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