I was forced into a trial of Ubuntu on my old laptop. Why? Because when I upgraded my current laptop to Windows 7 the one thing I did lose was the use of my scanner. It is too old and simply incompatible with Win 7. My old laptop (Acer Aspire 1360, AMD Sempron processor 3000+ rating, NVIDIA GeForce FX Go 5200 graphics card, 60GB HDD, 0.5MB RAM!!!) running Windows XP could still use the scanner, but it was so old, and the hard drive was so full that it was virtually unuseable. Even after deleting and installing all unecessary files it still ran like treacle.
So, my grand plan was to restore it to a brand new Windows XP factory install and then just run the scanner software and nothing else. Unfortunately either I had some corruption on my HDD or I caused some during the restore process. I was only supllied with “recovery disks” not full Windows XP disks. I think it restores Windows from a small hidden partition. Somewhere along the line something got screwed up and even various utility boot disks, formats, repartitions and low level disk scans did not solve the problem. The PC would hang after a variable (short) time.
In desperation I installed Ubuntu. Amazingly it installed straight away no problems. Maybe because it uses a different filesystem? The install program included some repartitioning. This seemed to go OK.
So, with the latest version of Ubuntu installed, how is it for a Linux noob? Well a bit tricky. The GUI (Gnome) takes a little getting used to and the installation process is still a mystery to me. However, it works.
No wifi. First time round I connected to my router via an ethernet cable. This was immediately recognised and allowed me to update the system and apps, and install a few Firefox add-ons to make me feel more at home (hello Xmarks!). With wifi however it was a different matter. My wifi lan card is not natively supported by Linux but luckily there is a program to allow Windows drivers to be used. I installed this as instructed but it always seemed to get stuck at the stage where I was asked to input the WPA wifi security key. I therefore tried turning off the encryption all together and it connected first time.
So, I am currently trying to see if I can solve the WPA problem. There is a lot of information out there on the net but at this stage I am still such a noob that it is mostly gobbeldeegook to me.
UPDATE: I tried changing the encryption protocol to WEP instead of WPA-PSK. This seemed to work fine. It’s a bit annoying because now I need to change all my other wireless devices too, Wii, iPhone, other laptop etc. and I know that WEP is less secure than WPA, but I’ll go with it for now.
Seeing if the scanner and printer work. If the scanner doesn’t work I might try and see if will work under WINE the Windows emulator.
UPDATE: No luck with the scanner. It is not recognized natively. There is a project caller SANE (scanners are now easy) which aims to make a lot of scanners work with Linux. Unfortunately mine is not one of them. There might be some hope on the horizon though, as a company called JFL Peripheral Solutions have apparently announced that they will be releasing drivers for all Visioneer scanners for Linux.
UPDATE2: I contacted JFL and unfortunately their Linux drivers are only for current models, not legacy products, so I’m out of luck.
The printer (Epson Stylus Color 680) worked fine with no need for any additional steps.
USB keys worked OK too.