14 Apr 2013

Tux moves house... again!

Does Tux really like to move house?

I've written about this already, when I first changed the HDD in my laptop. I moved the same HDD from an HP Compaq C300 to a Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Pi 1505. The HDD had 4 operating systems installed: Windows XP, Mageia 1 KDE, Linux Mint XFCE and Debian Squeeze. I made a conclusion at that time that WinXP survived the move the best.

The list of operating systems installed on that HDD have changed a bit since then. Linux Mint Xfce has gone, and Xubuntu 12.04 arrived in its place. Mageia 1 got upgraded to Mageia 2. Windows XP and Debian only got security updates, but remained at the same version level.

Unfortunately, the Fujitsu-Siemens laptop did not last long. Less than 1.5 years in my hands, and the backlight on the screen went bust. To be honest, the laptop had been used by somebody else before, so the actual lifespan of the device was significantly more than 1.5 years.

What was inside the Fujitsu-Siemens?
  • Intel Centrino, dual core 1.73 GHz
  • 1GB RAM
  • Intel video card
  • Intel 3945ABG WiFi card
After the backlight failed, I set myself the task of buying a new laptop. My choice was a Sony VAIO VGN-NR21Z. Of course, it had also been used by someone else, but it was described as "in very good condition".
What does this laptop have?

  • Intel Core 2 Duo 2.1 GHz
  • 3GB RAM
  • NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GT GPU
  • Intel 4965 AGN WiFi card

Just a few words about the design of devices. I mentioned in my previous article that it took me much more time to put the HDD into the Fujitsu-Siemens laptop than to take the same HDD out of HP Compaq. But only now have I realized that the Fujitsu-Siemens was actually well-designed! If you have ever tried to swap the HDD in Sony VAIO VGN-NR21Z, you would know that you need to unscrew literally 2 dozen screws of different sizes just to get the frame with the HDD out. Plus 4 screws more to take the HDD itself out of the frame! Of course, you need to put all these screws back when you are finished! That's real torture!

Anyway, I went through that exercise, and my new Sony laptop is ready for the test. Are the operating systems ready? Let's see!

First boot...

and good news that I can see the same GRUB menu. It means that the HDD is recognised, and the low-level video modes of GRUB are working fine with the video card and screen panel.

Who will be the guinea pig #1?

Windows XP! It was the leader last time...

But it is not the leader this time. Windows went directly into BSOD and immediate restart. Bin it!

Guinea pig #2 was Debian

Debian Squeeze showed me a normal start. Of course, there were some error lines during the first boot, but nothing serious. I cannot say for sure, but by all the requisites I could check, the Nouveau NVIDIA driver was automatically switched on. The wireless card worked without any issues.

Second boot of Debian OS did not show any error messages. Have I actually changed the laptop? Looks like Debian hasn't even noticed that!

Sony VAIO VGN-NR21Z does not have hardware sound controls. Instead, the key combinations Fn-F3 and Fn-F4 work as Volume down and Volume up. When I pressed these keys, they showed me an on-screen display and worked just fine.

Similar to the sound controls, screen brightness controls (Fn-F5 and Fn-F6) showed the on-screen display, but had no real effect.

Guinea pig #3 was Xubuntu

Xubuntu 12.04 showed me a normal start too. The proprietary NVIDIA driver was listed in the Additional Drivers section of System menu, and installed just fine. Wireless card worked without any issues.

Sound controls (Fn-F3 and Fn-F4) showed on-screen display and work perfectly. Unfortunately, brightness controls (Fn-F5 and Fn-F6) had no effect at all.

And the last guinea pig - my favourite Mageia

Unfortunately for me, first boot into Mageia brought me some problems. This operating system did not have a driver for the WiFi network card Intel 4965 AGN "in stock". I had to temporarily connect the laptop to a wired Internet to download the driver. The process worked fine and did not take much time. I had a wireless connection very soon.

Mageia asked me to install the proprietary NVIDIA driver when I went to the Mageia Control Centre, Configure Graphical Server section. Installation took some time, but proceeded OK.

Sound controls (Fn-F3 and Fn-F4) had no effect at all.

Screen brightness controls (Fn-F5 and Fn-F6) only showed me an on-screen display, but had no real effect.


What are the ratings of the operating systems for the ability to move house? Last time the clear winner was WinXP, followed by Linux Mint Xfce, Debian and Mageia.

The situation is different this time. My rating is:

  1. Debian Squeeze
  2. Xubuntu 12.04
  3. Mageia 2
  4. Windows XP

The difference between Squeeze and 12.04 is marginal. Debian managed to show an OSD for brightness controls, which 12.04 did not. However, neither OS was able to change the screen brightness with these keys.

Similar to the previous time, Mageia gave me the most problems out of all Linux-based operating systems.

And Windows, like it is commonly said, "must die". It died. It won't be resurrected.

What's next?

Even though all Linux operating systems are working fine now, I made my own decision to do a full wipe of HDD and do fresh installations.

First of all, because I want to get rid of Windows XP, which took the biggest partition on my laptop's HDD, mostly acting like a storage. It means re-partitioning of the Hard Disk Drive.

Secondly, I have another project, which can benefit from me having an additional software installed in a separate partition. Unfortunately, this does not mean getting rid of Windows at all. Which project do I mean? I'll keep it secret and will only answer in personal e-mails!

Keep in touch!


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