The race to installation – From Kubuntu to Xubuntu.

This is part two of the XP vs Ubuntu setup time test.

The test turned out to be less scientific than I had first thought.  The machine that was due to get Kubuntu installed on it was a former Windows 2000 machine.  I hadn’t checked the specs with the friend that I ‘rescued’ the machine from, and hadn’t even booted the machine up – I’d just assumed that it would be powerful enough to run Kubuntu with all its eye candy.

The machine turned out to be a 900Mhz Intel with 256MB RAM, a very slow, small hard drive, and a Riva TNT 16MB AGP graphics card.

Interestingly enough, the actual install of Kubuntu was 12 minutes faster than the XP installation on a faster, newer machine.  After installation, the machine booted to an 800×600 desktop, but it did have internet access.

Unfortunately, the NVidia Legacy drivers didn’t want to work with Kubuntu 8.10.  The machine also ran appallingly slowly.

I have plenty of spare bits lying around so put some more memory in the machine, and upgraded the graphics card to a Geforce 3.  I decided that Xubuntu would be a better choice performance wise, since the KDE desktop eye candy wasn’t really needed anyway.

Xubuntu installed nice and quickly, but the desktop was still in 800×600.  Installing the NVidia 86 drivers didn’t help – in fact after enabling the restricted drivers the desktop shrank to 640×480!  It took a couple of hours of messing around with Xorg.conf (and the X recovery tool) to persuade it to boot in 1024×768.  Once that was set up, however, everything else worked perfectly.  Installing the available updates and restricted packages required to be able to watch videos, etc, was a semi-unattended task which took about 3 hours – mostly because our net connection has been crawling for the past few days.

Getting Xubuntu up and running was fast and easy, except for the issue with the desktop resolution.  I did try using EnvyNG, but in the end dropping down to the command line turned out to be the solution. It’s impressive that Xubuntu installs so quickly, but I could imagine many ‘normal users’ giving up if faced with similar graphics problems.

Now that the Xubuntu box is up and running, I plan to use it for C++ and Python work (freeing up my Windows setup for gaming!), but I must admit, I’m falling in love with Kontact and K-Mail.

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