Sunday, 27 February 2011

Installing Linux Mint On A Dell Inspiron 2200

Lately, I've read forum posts and blog comments from people who are still convinced that installing Linux involves messing around with the command line at every turn, that dependency hell when installing software will ruin your Linux experience and that wireless just doesn't work.
They also say that Linux is not ready for the desktop.

This, my friends, is bollocks.

We have a temporary house guest staying at the moment and when she described her laptop, a Dell Inspiron 2200, as ancient, that it had been dropped on a number of occassions and takes forever to do anything, I offered to take a look. She also described herself as technically retarded. I was pretty sure I could fix the laptop, but not so sure about fixing her technical retardation.

So I connected it to the mains (the battery is completely shot) fired it up and once it had passed the Dell splash screen it started to boot WinXP. And then it promptly gave me the BSOD.
I tried booting to its last known good configuration, safe graphics mode, safe mode without graphics etc. but to no avail.
I booted Linux Mint from a USB stick and had a look at the hard drive using gParted. Checking the drive threw up an error and it wouldn't fix it.
I searched for and tried a number of solutions, but it just wasn't having it.
Sian, for that is her name, mentioned buying a Macbook to replace this machine (an excellent choice), but I was determined that this laptop wouldn't go to the local recycling facility without a fight and suggested that she let me install Linux Mint 10.

So, in went the Mint Linux live USB alongside an ethernet connection, I double clicked the installer, answered a few simple questions and within half an hour it was done. Rebooting, installing all the latest updates and rebooting again brought me to the desktop.

Then something popped up suggesting a driver for the wireless card. I chose to install the driver, the wireless card sprang to life and I was able to connect to my WPA2 encrypted network.

Then it turns out that Sian has been using a mobile broadband package on the Three network using a Huawei E220 dongle/modem. Having plugged one if these into my Ubuntu box, I know that it works out of the box. But, it turns out that this isn't the case with Mint 10. Which is odd.
Anyway, the solution to this was to boot with the dongle/modem inserted. You can then unplug it and plug it back in and it will still be picked up until you close down the computer, when it must be booted with it inserted again for it to work. Not great, but it works.

She asked for Picasa to be added and it was just a case of opening the Software Manager, searching for Picasa and hitting Add. I also added the Frozen Bubble game. Everyone likes Frozen Bubble.

After I had finished doing everthing, I closed the machine down and handed it to Sian.
She almost instinctively knew where to find everything, it connected automatically to my wireless network and within a couple of minutes she was surfing, exploring the menu and asking if Adobe Acrobat Reader was available. I explained that it really wasn't needed and when she clicked on a .pdf file it would just open in a reader. And it did.

And she is a very happy bunny.

She is no more technically aware than she was when she ran Windows, but she's a lot happier.
Not once has the command line been called upon, the wireless works, her mobile broadband works and installing software is easier than it is with Windows. She may well still get a Macbook, though, if only to give this design nightmare from Dell to someone else.

It doesn't exactly fly when running two or more programs, it's a relatively slow processor and it could use some more ram, but for web browsing and media playback, it works just fine.

So, if you're a first time user and would like to experience the incredibly easy to install (and use) Linux Mint 10, click here and get the full featured DVD edition :)