Linux on a Toshiba Satellite M305-S4910

I bought a Toshiba Satellite M305-S4910 at Best Buy for $679.

Intel® Core™2 Duo mobile processor T6400; 4GB DDR2 SDRAM; DL DVD±RW/CD-RW drive; Labelflash support; 14.1" widescreen; 320GB hard drive; built-in webcam; Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit with SP1

photo_042909_001

This is a handsome computer; no complains except the battery configuration and the slick keyboard and touchpad buttons. So far all works well with OpenSuse, though.

I have a beat up Acer Aspire 5610 running Ubuntu 8.04 (and recently 8.10).   The Acer has played pretty well with Ubuntu right from the start; I nuked Windows Vista because it was so bad, unstable and slow.  Ubuntu was sent from Heaven.

When I got the Satellite, I decided I wanted to dual boot (into Vista...) because I had two Windows programs I missed -- audio & video editors that Linux just doesn't handle well.  No biggie, Linux is so awesome in so many ways, especially for my work, that I'm cool.  Having Windows also allows me to boot up into it to test web sites with Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera on Windows, too.  I used VirtualBox to run Windows on the Acer/Ubuntu but it was a little unstable with my video editor and if running there was a chance my whole computer would crash.  I also was using an older version of Windows XP and hadn't set up the networking (because I didn't want to deal with all the viruses & junk).  All in all, VirtualBox is absolutely amazing; but I chose to do dual boot because of the nature of the recovery discs (you can't recover into a VirtualBox install).

I had a fair amount of trouble, but am not surprised.  I never get through these things unscathed.

First an aside:

The store demo model didn't have a battery -- probably because someone would steal them, but had I know it would look like this, I might have had second thoughts. Really, Toshiba? This is your battery design?

The store demo model didn't have a battery -- probably because someone would steal them, but had I known it would look like this, I might have had second thoughts. Really, Toshiba? This is your battery design?

another, wider view of battery

another, wider view of battery

Here we go

  1. Downloaded Ubuntu 9.04 from ubuntu.com, burned ISO to CD.  I chose the 64bit version, because of the Core 2 Duo chip. Nothing on Ubuntu.com about the 64 bit version being made for AMD64 -- had to find that out from polishlinux.org.  I installed it, choosing to let Ubuntu repartition automatically so Ubuntu and Windows would co-exist.  This worked GREAT -- EXCEPT the partition for Ubuntu was 2.3 gigs!  It's a 320 gig HD!  I wanted something like 50/50, since for Windows I'll be doing a lot of audio & video stuff and Linux will have the rest of it.  It's not a huge thing, as I could share Windows files, but I wanted to use ext3 instead of NTFS where possible.
  2. So, I had to go back in with the install disc and re-partition.  This nuked Windows.  So, I had to re-install (thankfully I made the 3 DVD recovery set... though I had to search for it, Toshiba made no reference to it in any of the very limited documentation packaged with the Satellite.  Glad I have some experience with this stuff.)
  3. Windows recovered (took about two hours and a score of unattended reboots... I was getting worried for awhile).
  4. Now Linux was nuked.
  5. Reinstalled Ubuntu.  Everything coexists.
  6. Flaky, seems unstable and slow at random times.  Researched 64 bit Ubuntu, decide to go with 32 bit version instead.
  7. Downloaded 32bit Jaunty Jackelope, burned ISO, reinstalled, same problem.
  8. Research other Linux distros.  Debian looks good, even an IA64 version! W00t!  Downloaded, burned.
  9. IA64 Debian won't even boot install disc.
  10. Download & burn 32 bit Debian.  Installs fine, but can't find wifi device, only option is RJ45, which I don't have in my office.  Tried to find way to add wireless, but the Networking program says it doesn't work with this version of Linux.  Also, graphics card not detected properly, max resolution not that good.  Not as good as it could/should be at least.
  11. Research more strains of Linux; Fedora... Red Hat?  Hmm.  Sounds like a lot of fighting and lies and "myths to be dispelled."  That's like a girl saying, "okay, there are a lot of girls out there you could take out, and most of them have lots of good things said about them, but all the bad stuff about me are myths, really!"  Maybe it's true, but I'm suspicious that none of the fighting words tossed around are true.
  12. OpenSuse?   I thought it was S.U.s.e.  Hmm?  Compares with Ubuntu?  Hmm.
  13. Downloaded 64bit version of Fedora but didn't bother trying to burn -- yet.  OpenSuse looks pretty good.
  14. Downloaded 64bit version of OpenSuse, burned.
  15. Install as easy as Ubuntu.  Partitioning a little bit confusing (it automatically wanted to further divvy up my ext3 partition to / and /home; I decided, "why not?" and let it do it.  So far, so good).
  16. Gnome looked AWESOME in OpenSuse.  Love the whole start menu thing; decided to make sure windows still works before I start configuring stuff.  Wifi!  So much goodness by default.
  17. Couldn't help myself; 1am and I'm still configuring stuff.  Evolution looks great, may drop webmail again, go back to stand-alone.  RSS feed reader: goodbye Google Reader, be creepy and track someone else's every online move for a change.  Bye bye Google-except-for-youtube.  Oh, and web searches, can't do without that.
  18. Looks like I'll need to set up my own apache & mysql & php but that's okay.  Bet it ends well, based on past OpenSuse experience.
  19. Loving it so far; looks so good, works so well.  I'll do an update in a few weeks to let you know if it still works.  So far, 64 bit OpenSuse 11.1 works fantastic on the M305-S4910.  Go do it!

As an aside; Ubuntu and OpenSuse's web sites are really good.  Any tech company can learn from the design of those sites, which quickly filtered me to what I wanted.

I like to use Linux and I spent a fair amount of time in a terminal -- vim is my editor for everything, it's really amazing and efficient and stable; get a few add ons and you will find it as good and useful as Eclispe.  Having said that, you'd think I'd love to get in and compile drivers and load modules and figure out this and that.  Not anymore.

I don't have time or desire to spend figuring out why my graphics card doesn't work, or the wifi device wasn't detected.  There was a time -- I installed Red Hat on a Sony Vaio in 1998 -- when I did all that; I'm at a time in my life where I want Linux to just work.  Then I can spend time in the sack with my wife, throw a frisbee with the kids, pray to God, sleep, disc golf, windsurf, hang out with friends... whatever.  Linux is SO close.  Two years ago when I installed Ubuntu 7 something on my Acer, it was pretty easy -- except a few things that made it so people like my computer-capable father and my even more computer-capable wife wouldn't want to deal with.  My experience this time was similar.  If I'd tried OpenSuse first, I'd be pleasantly surprised.  If I'd not known anything and went with Slackware, I'd probably have gone screaming to a Mac.

Linux versions like Ubuntu & OpenSuse are a step away, the 5 yard line, a layup, rounding third ... from punching through to the "it works out of the box as easy as anything."  Then, it's over.  Easy setup is the ONLY thing left.  It rocks the casbah in every other way.  I see little that an average consumer needs that they wouldn't have in Linux.  Okay, maybe iTunes.  That's it, though.