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Finding the right distro for my ThinkPad – Followup December 6, 2007

Posted by rm42 in Computers, Linux.
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This is an important update to this review:

A standard feature of mainstream multimedia PCs and laptops has been the ability of being able to record digital sound… if you think that this feature is important to you or someone you know you may want to read this before purchasing a Lenovo Thinkpad.

http://temporaryland.wordpress.com/2008/08/04/consumer-alert-sound-mix-intentionally-crippled-laptops/

Those of you that read my writeup about “Finding the right distro for my ThinkPad” may wonder how things went with the distros I ended up choosing after a few days of use and if I was able to resolve the few issues that I had found with them. So, as a follow up and for the benefit of those interested in trying out those distros I decided make this post.

Running Compiz-Fusion

First of all, I am happy to say that Compiz-Fusion is running very well on my machine with all these distros. This is what I had to do to enable it. (Remember, my Laptop comes with the integrated Intel GMA X3100 GM965 video card.)

Mandriva 2008 (Installed from the “One” Live CD):
On Mandriva, Compiz-Fusion (as well as Metisse) worked fine out-of-the-box. I just had to make the selection on the Mandriva Control Center.

Mandriva 3D

Linux Mint 4.0:
The correct driver was installed out-of-the-box. However, Compiz-Fusion would not work. After a little research, I found out that I needed to comment out the following line (that is, put a “#” in front of it) on the “/usr/bin/compiz” file:

T=”$T 8086:2982 8086:2992 8086:29a2 8086:2a02 8086:2a12″ # intel 965

So, in the end it should look like this:

#T=”$T 8086:2982 8086:2992 8086:29a2 8086:2a02 8086:2a12″ # intel 965

This is the case because the Compiz developers decided to black list this card for the time being due to some limitations with the current Intel driver. I think this is related to video playback, although I have not had any problems. I guess if I do, I will simply disable the special effects temporarily to get around the issue.

PCLinuxOS 2007:
Assuming that you have installed all the available updates, including the 2.6.22.10 kernel, all you will need to do is enter these two lines to /etc/modprobe.preload

intel-agp
agpgart

Once you do that, go ahead and reboot. Afterwards, just go into the PCLinuxOS Control Center to make sure the graphics server is using the “Intel 810 and latter” driver. You can then select Compiz-Fusion from the 3D Effects section of the Control Panel.

Wireless Support

I mentioned on my previous writeup that I had no problems connecting to my home wireless network with any of the distributions. (Remember, my ThinkPad came with the Intel/PRO Wireless 3945ABG card.) However, one little detail I should have probably explained was that my home wireless network is configured as a 128 Bit WEP network. I purposely configured it that way because I knew that it works well with Linux that way. At work, however, our wireless access point is configured with the WPA2 encryption mode, and that is a whole different ballgame. This is how it went for me.

Mandriva 2008:
It worked, out-of-the-box. I just had to go into Mandriva Control Center > Network & Internet > Network Center, expanded the wireless card entry (in my case, eth1), selected the right network from the list of available ones, and configured it. For “Encryption mode” I selected “WPA Pre-Shared Key” and entered the correct key. I then closed that dialog box and clicked the Connect button. After a few seconds, a notification on the Kicker (the task bar) told me that I was connected. Impressive Mandriva!

PCLinuxOS:
I had trouble connecting to the WPA2 network. Afte several tries, it occurred to me that maybe I could use the Mandriva configuration files. So, after doing some reading to see what files were involved, I decided to copy these two files from Mandriva to their corresponding locations on PCLinuxOS:

/etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth1

and

/etc/wpa_supplicant.conf

After copying those two files, I was able to go into the PCLinuxOs Control Center and connect as I had done with Mandriva. Unfortunately, I don’t know why this worked, or even if maybe only one of these files would have been enough (I suspect the first one is the important one), but that is what I did to get it working. The good thing is that Mandriva was able to connect even from the Live CD. So, you can copy the files from the Live CD without having to install Mandriva to the hard drive.

Linux Mint:
Unfortunately, I could not get Linux Mint to connect at all to the WPA2 network. I was able to find this two pages that offer instructions on how to do it:

http://www.linuxmint.com/wiki/index.php/MintWifi#WPA

http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=318539

But, nothing I tried worked. Maybe I missed something, but it shouldn’t be this hard.

Adding a Printer Shared with CUPS

Connected to my desktop PC, which happens to run PCLinuxOS beautifully, I have a Dell 1700N printer which I received as a gift. It is nothing fancy. As I understand it, it is really a re-branded Lexmark printer. (In case you have one of these, the Lexmark Optra E312 driver works well with it.) Any how, I have CUPS configured on my desktp to share this printer with the network. So, obviously I was curious to see how each OS would do when attempting to connect to it and print.

Mandriva 2008:
No problems. I went to the Mandriva Control Center > Hardware > Set up the printer(s) … I then clicked on the “Configure CUPS” button. I then clicked on the “Additional CUPS servers” button and added the IP address of my desktop. My printer then showed up on the Configured on other machines tab.

Mandriva remote printers

PCLinuxOS 2007:
It worked essentially the same way as Mandriva did. It is the same code after all. ;)

Linux Mint 4.0:
It was a little trickier on Mint, mostly because it required more knowledge. Under Administration > Printers, I double clicked on the New Printer button. That brings up a Wizard to help one set it up. However, as you can see here, one is expected to enter the correct URI of the printer.

Mint CUPS Printer Add

I frankly had no idea what to enter into the URI field. So, I cheated and booted into PCLinuxOS to see if the properties of the printer I had added would give me this information. Sure enough, I learned that my printer was located at this address:

ipp://192.168.02.2/printers/LEXMARKOE312

Also, form previous research I had done when I originally obtained the printer I knew that the Lexmark Optra E312 driver worked well with it. So, I configured it this way. The printer worked correctly after that.

Adding the printer with Windows:

Frankly I was not expecting to be able to use this printer on my Laptop from the Windows XP side without installing Samba. But, I am happy to say that it is possible. While it is slightly more difficult than from Linux, the steps are really not that hard. I have to give the credit for the steps to Colin Stewart. You can find the steps involved on his blog:

http://www.owlfish.com/thoughts/winipp-cups-2003-07-20.html

I used the built-in printer driver method and I was able to print just fine. However, even after the print job came out fine from the printer, the Windows “Printers and Faxes” window showed that there was 1 Document still being Processed. When double clicking on the printer it showed no document, but the Title bar says it is Processing something.

Windows CUPS Printing

Fortunately, stopping and starting the spooler service cleared the problem, apparently for good. You do that by issuing these commands:

net stop spooler
net start spooler

So, I am glad that I did not have to install Samba for using this printer under Windows. But, Windows could use a little polishing is their CUPS printer support. ;)

Final Thoughts

I am very happy with all three distros that I am running. As you can see, Mandriva is certainly the champ in hardware support for my laptop. But, I enjoy using the other distros as well for one reason or another. I think it is a good idea to have more than one distro installed on a laptop since one does not know if one distro will work better than the others on a particular scenario. The good thing is that Linux makes this easy and practical to do.

Finally, If you have read this far, I would like to recommend that you read the following review of Mandriva 2008:

http://www.mandrake.tips.4.free.fr/review2008.0.html

That review covers much more than just Mandriva. It is an excellent tutorial on several areas related to Linux and Linux on laptops. I am not through reading it yet, but already I have that page saved and bookmarked. I think you will want to do that too.

Comments»

1. Brian - December 7, 2007

Hi, I use an X61s with the same graphics as your X61, I am curious about your experience with Compiz Fusion, I have it set up to skip the blacklist check to get around that although I have never gotten video playback to work (and this has been the experience with many different people that I have talked to). Would you mind elaborating on how you have Compiz set up?

2. rm42 - December 7, 2007
3. PR - December 8, 2007

Mandriva 2008.0 triggered a bug in the ThinkPad G40 which contains two display adapters. This hardware (firmware?) bug results in X ignoring the laptop display and using only the external monitor. See http://bugs.freedesktop.org/show_bug.cgi?id=13308

4. Custom SLA Programming - December 9, 2007

is i pod able to support the linux?

5. rm42 - December 9, 2007
6. manmath - December 27, 2007

Hi RM,
Have you tried the latest pclinuxos gnome remaster? It was released last week and it’s built on the latest available in pclos repos. Give it a spin.
Regards,
Manmath

7. rm42 - December 27, 2007

Manmath,

I tried the previous release and found it very good. I’ll have to give this one a try as well. Thanks for the heads up.

8. Marc Fearby - December 29, 2007

After reading your well-written reviews I think I might give Mandriva a try. I’m beginning to agree with you that Kubuntu is the unwanted stepchild of Ubuntu (it took me a while to get Compiz working but it turned out I had to install the xserver-xgl package, but none of the HOWTOs I read mentioned this vital little requirement). I want a Linux operating system that takes care of all these little niceties for me; I don’t want to have to spend countless hours chasing down packages and config files. That’s the old Linux. If Linux is going to become more popular, it has to be more “out of the box” and I think Mandriva or PCLinuxOS are probably more that way than Kubuntu, unfortunately.

9. Jason - January 6, 2008

Hmm nice write up, except I even commented the line but it still says ”desktop effects could not be enabled” and I have the same video card as you too

10. rm42 - January 7, 2008

Jason,

That is strange. You are using Linux Mint 4.0 right? Is your machine using the “intel – Experimental” driver? Have you installed all updates available for the distro?

11. Jason - January 7, 2008

All yes to that except for the intel experiemental part, where can I find the place to set that?

12. rm42 - January 7, 2008

Administration > Screens and Graphics.

13. Jason - January 7, 2008

Well I enabled the intel experimental one now but it still doesn’t work

14. Jason - January 7, 2008

Wait if works now thanks a lot man!

15. Jason - January 7, 2008

Only one question now, it stuck me at 1200 X (something I forgot) and I want the highest resolution on but it doesn’t give me an option for it.. any idea how?

16. Jason - January 7, 2008

Ok sorry for all of the bothers, finally got it all back to normal.. but with compiz now :D thanks so much man

17. dody - October 11, 2008

hi RM,

Your review are very good, i read all the articles..make me think..i should migrate from windows to linux. very inspired me. thanks.

18. Clint - January 1, 2009

Ever tried VMware on your X61?

19. rm42 - January 1, 2009

Clint,

Yes I have. I used the VMWare Converter to create a Virtual Machine based on the XP Pro copy that came with the machine. (By the way I have a T61 not an X61.) But, I haven’t really used it since I really do not need Windows at all.


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