Thursday, August 16, 2007

openSUSE and the bleeding edge

I fear I'm about to sound both boastful and ungrateful... but my boss refreshed my work laptop with this monster I have dubbed "DellZilla". Cool, huh? Definitely - except that you need a pack mule to actually move it. Once upon a time, laptops could actually fit in your lap.

The other problem is that I haven't found a Linux distribution that comes with the right drivers for it. Ubuntu Feisty was hopeless - all incarnations (u-, ku-, and xu-) were flummoxed by the screen and failed to start xwindows, or gave an utterly black empty screen.

Next I tried openSUSE, and was in some ways pleasantly surprised. It copes OK with whatever video voodoo is required for this monster screen. It automatically noticed that I had a Windows Vista partition and included it as a boot option. In fact, it includes "Restart and boot directly into Windows" as a menu option, so you can go get a cola while switching OS's instead of hovering over the keyboard waiting to catch the boot loader. Considerate! And it comes with all the cutting-edge goodies like Beagle. (And freeciv! Eek!)

One significant complaint is that, if you don't have wireless connectivity while you're doing the openSUSE installation, YAST won't even record the URLs of the repositories you'll need for software. When you need to download the good stuff later on, you'll need to hunt around for the URLs (psst, they're here) and add them to your list of sources by hand. For a SuSE newbie, that's a pain.

But I got through that. The real problem is that I've got no support for the mac80211 wireless card. Trying to get a driver installed for that has been an adventure in frustration. There's a driver here, but it appears to my amateurish eye as though YAST installs the Linux kernel-source into locations where the mac80211 makefile absolutely does not expect it, and trying to hack them into agreement is a step too far for me. It's like being back in the Bad Old Pre-Ubuntu days when Linux was something I only wished I could use.

So here I am, typing on a zillion-dollar laptop and tethered to the wall like it's 1994, and trying to figure out my next move. This says Sabayon 3.4 supports mac80211. I hadn't even heard of Sabayon before this week, and I've read good things about it, but I wonder if it's just too fancy. It installs from DVDs; I've never even tried burning one of those. And I can't even get its blasted homepage to come up under Firefox or Konqueror. But whatever; I need wireless. If you don't hear from me for a while, it's because I need to compile my own drivers for the keyboard, or maybe the AC adapter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A little edit to the xorg.conf in Kubuntu or Ubuntu 7.04 and you would have been home free.

Or try:

apt-get install restricted-manager

fire up restricted-manager, which may happily offer up your cards driver. You may still need to edit the xorg.conf for you desired resolution.