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.
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.
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.
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.