New Laptop

It seems like every spring I end up getting a new laptop. This year, it was prompted by last year’s laptop, a HP having a temperature related problem with the display, and needing to have a machine ready to go to PyCon in March.

The new laptop is an AMD Vision A6 powered Samsung.  I’ve never owned a Samsung laptop, and I really like this one. It is well put together, and runs shockingly fast… especially when runing virtual machines.  After all the bad things I’d read about AMDs latest round of processor, a $400 A6 laptop is actually very fast especially compared to the i3 powered intel stuff at comparable price points.
Incidenatlly, one of the things that you really have to appreciate about Linux is how easy it is to migrate from one machine to another:
  1. Swap hard drives.
  2. Boot.
  3. Optional and rare: deal with driver hell.
  4. Get to work.
One of the places where Linux and Windows could not be more different is in handling hardware and device drivers. Linux takes a batteries included approach where most drivers come with the operating system. Windows includes a few drivers with the operating system, but usually requires that you install manufacturer provided drivers for nearly everything.  So when you move from one laptop to another, yanking the hard drive from the old one and putting it in the new one usually doesn’t work at all… until you spend four hours downloading and installing drivers for stuff like PCI bridges and USB host controllers.  Driver hell is defined differently, too:
Linux driver hell: A driver you need to install is not included on your distribution. This happens when you buy something that is very new and the distributions have not added all the drivers, config data and kernel modules to the distribution. 
Windows driver hell: The usuall four hour download and install dance. Happens every time you install Windows without a pre-configured restore disk for your computer.
Oh, and for those of you having problems with the AMD A6 Radeon APU on Linux, here is how I got mine to work on Kubuntu 11.10
Short Version: 
Get a command line and download the latest Radeon driver from AMD and install it. Then turn off acpi services. Restart X or reboot. Done.

Long Version: 
  1. Connect to a hardwired ethernet port so we don’t have to deal with initializing wifi.
  2. Boot in recovery mode. 
  3. Mount the file system.
  4. Get a root prompt with network support.
  5. Type dhclient.  Wait a second. You are now connected to the internet.
  6. Type wget http://www2.ati.com/drivers/linux/amd-driver-installer-12-1-x86.x86_64.run
  7. When download is complete, type chmod 755 amd-driver-installer-12-1-x86.x86_64.run; ./amd-driver-installer-12-1-x86.x86_64.run 
  8. Just install the driver.
  9. When driver install is complete, type amdonfig –acpi-services=on|off
  10. Reboot by typing reboot now
Hope that helps.

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