My new laptop is here! My preciousss!


Updated: September 14, 2009

Dear readers, I've bought myself a new laptop. I'm so very pleased with it that I decided to write an article and show off my latest toy. It's also a great lesson in Linux, since the machine runs four operating systems, with the fifth on the way. So if you're in a mood for some ego-centric eye candy, do take a look.

The machine itself is LG RD510 model, with black-red-gradient monitor panel and a white keyboard panel with its own numpad. It has a Core 2 Duo P7450 processors, clocked at 2.13GHz, with 3MB L2 cache, seated on a 1066MHz mobo. I've rigged it with 2x2GB Kingston DDR2 800MHz sticks, to take full advantage of the dual memory channel. It's also equipped with a handsome Nvidia 9600M GS card with 512MB RAM, plus a decent Toshiba 320GB SATA II 5400rpm hard disk.

Screenie

Then, there's the usual plethora of peripherals, a built-in webcam, Intel Wireless, Bluetooth, FireWire 800, e-SATA, VGA, HDMI, all sorts of smart card readers, and two USB ports. Oh yes, 15.1" screen. It's a real treat for the eyes.

Four operating systems

I've planned on this laptop for some time and considered my setup carefully. Eventually, I decided to go for four Ubuntu installations, each one used for a different task. Why not a different user, you might say? Well, I wanted a complete separation between them.

GRUB

Oh, you have to admit the choice of titles in GRUB menu is simply stellar. BTW, all of the users have funny names - Lamer Gamer, Tester the Molester, this is more than just a trick to impress the crowds. Let me show off what I did.

Installation 1: Ubuntu for serious work

This installation is meant to be used for actual, productive stuff, not just fun. I booted the latest Ubuntu 9.04 64-bit CD and the real fun started. Everything worked out of the box. Simply everything.

Desktop

System monitor

The only thing I had to do was install the Nvidia drivers via the Restricted Drivers menu. And that was it. A perfect, beautiful match.

Nvidia

After this, I installed all sorts of things. First, I added the Medibuntu repository to my list of Software Sources. This allowed me to grab the 64-bit Flash 10 and install the codecs for all sorts of media.

After that, I installed VirtualBox 3 and VMware Server 1.0.9, both 64-bit. VirtualBox installation went smoothly. VMware Server was a major pain. But this is mostly the way Ubuntu is designed. It breaks quite a few old Linux conventions, all of which VMware Server expects to find.

I'm going to write a long article detailing the effort. Eventually, I overcame all of these problems and had both VirtualBox and VMware Server running, side by side.

Here's a little screenshot. Here we have a 64-bit Ubuntu guest with 1GB RAM dedicated running from an NTFS formatted external USB drive inside VirtualBox and a 32-bit Windows XP guest with 1GB RAM dedicated running from another NTFS formatted external USB drive. Crazy!

Virtualization

You can also see that while I have depleted my physical memory and even dabbed a little into swap, only 1GB is actually used, the rest is buffered and cached.

Top

One small issue that did arise after a while was with audio. I seemed to have lost sound all of sudden. But it turned out that VMware Server simply muted the /dev/dsp sound device. The solution was to fire up the AlsaMixer from the terminal and fix the volume. This is done by running alsamixer -c 0. Everything else worked like charm.

AlsaMixer

Installation 2: Ubuntu with Compiz demo and eye candy bling bling

I love Compiz, but I decided to keep it off the main installation, as it does hurt the productivity just a little bit. I've installed the distro, installed the Nvidia drivers. After the reboot, I also activated Emerald and added the radical theme. Then, I set Compiz to be the default Window manager. Lastly, I also installed Awn dock.

Compiz desktop

Here's a handful of lovely screenshots:

Compiz 3

Compiz 2

Installation 3: Ubuntu for testing of software

Well, it's a fairly standard installation, nothing fancy here. I did install Bootchart to profile the boot sequence, though. My impression with the main installation was that it took about 15 seconds to reach the desktop. Now, installation 3 is toward the end of the disk, so it ought to be slower, but still, it will give us an indication how quickly this thing boots.

Bootchart

Indeed, I was not that far off mark. 18 seconds! Not bad. This without any tweaking!

Now, please remember that the testing installation sits at the slow end of the disk, plus the disk is only 5400rpm. With a 7200rpm disk and timing the boot sequence on the main installation, I think we could go down to maybe 11-12 seconds!

One more thing I noticed was that Network Manager pestered me with providing a keyring every time I booted into this instance, so I powered Seahorse and nulled the key. This allowed me to connect to Wireless without providing the password.

Installation 4: Ubuntu for gaming

This is where all the fun with games happens. The laptop specs are pretty decent, so I decided how well it would behave with my standard array of games. I was very much pleased. I set the desktop with a screenshot from Yo Frankie! game.

Gamer desktop

One of the games I tested was the latest Nexuiz release, version 2.5.1, released in May. I downloaded the game, unzipped the archive, fired it up and tweaked the settings to Ultimate. It ran smoothly, without any issues.

A full review coming soon!

Nexuiz 1

Nexuiz 2

Nexuiz 3

There was one issue with this installation. After upgrading the kernel as a part of the normal system update, Ubuntu failed to rebuild the initrd.img file properly, which left this fourth installation unbootable. I solved the problem by copying the initrd.img file from one of healthy, working instances.

Difference

You can read about this adventure in this article.

Other things I did

I also unzapped the default X Windows restart combo Ctrl + Alt  Backspace, which is disabled in Jaunty. I did this by installing dontzap package and running dontzap -d.

I've also setup sbackup to run daily and copy files to a network share, which happens to be an NTFS drive. I've also tried CloneZilla and it works great with Ext4 filesystem.

Future: Add fifth operating system

This was going to be, yes you guessed right - Fedora. I'm going to place a Fedora on this machine, as well. I've also bought a few 16GB USB disks, so I can install all sorts of operating systems on them.

Closing note

Well that's it. I love my new toy and wanted to share my fun with you.

See you around!

Cheers.

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