Ubuntu 9.10 on Dell Latitude D820 Laptop

The PowerBook G4 Mac in the house finally quit working. We splurged $300 on a brand new laptop recently. We got a 3 year old Dell Latitude D820 from Craigslist. With 2.16 GHz Intel Core Duo, and 1920×1200 screen resolution – that makes for an impressive system with Ubuntu 9.10 installed.

The install was straightforward. You just download Ubuntu 9.10, burn the download onto a single CD. You then install from the disk – in our case by pressing F12 to enter the boot menu and select boot from disk. You just follow instructions on the screen to get it going, and that’s all.

The laptop came with Windows Vista. I considered dual boot, but decided not to waste otherwise perfectly good disk space. So 45 minutes later Ubuntu was finished installing. Performance is rather amazing. Boot time is 35 seconds, shutdown takes 7 seconds, and applications start up pretty much instantaneously. It amazes me why so many people prefer Windows when you can run so much faster on the same computer by installing Linux. In this instance of Dell D820 with Vista compared to Ubuntu 9.10 – the boot time and startup time of programs was about 2x faster on Ubuntu.

The Ubuntu install was turnkey. Wireless worked right after I put in the ID for the wireless network. Skype installed without a glitch. So did QCad, and of course Blender. There was a trick to Kdenlive, the movie editor, which I hope is fixed by the next Ubuntu upgrade. There was the broken sound problem when viewing videos in the project monitor. To fix this, I un-installed Pulseaudio, simply by using Synaptic Package Manager. I also had to go into the Kdenlive settings and choose Alsa as the audio device and the restart Kdenlive. That fixed the problem. Sound works now, and I have not had Kdenlive crash once yet.

Kdenlive in itself is impressive. Inserting video into it is instantaneous. Back on the Mac, it would take an hour or more just to insert video clips into iMovie to begin editing. Rendering is also impressive – about a minute of time for every minute of video produced, as opposed to 5-10 times slower than this on the Mac.

The sound is a little bit of a problem now that Pulseaudio was unistalled in Ubuntu 9.10. Now sound in Movie Player – a sound and video player – disappeared on me. So when I need to play videos, I just use Kdenlive to view them. This works well. I now use Rhythmbox Audio Player for audio.

For those of you who don’t know about Linux, there’s the powerful command line terminal – where you can start applications, manipulate the system, even surf the web in text mode – and do much more than you can do in the GUI. The fact that you can type in commands at the command line sounded geeky or unimpressive to me, until I tried it and found out for myself how useful it could really be. There are certainly situations where you want to go through the command line instead of the graphical user interface.

All in all, I am very pleased with the clean look and speedy performance of Ubuntu 9.10 on the Dell D820. Linux has come a long way, and now looks totally professional, especially on a high resolution screen. It certainly feels like I’m using serious computing power, and the fact that it’s open source, free, and so adaptable – is just inspiring. Thanks to the leagues of open source developers out there who created an amazing system, which in my opinion is clearly superior to Windows on the basis of speed, flexibility, and cost. I’d like to hear from others if they also have similar opinions on the speed issues – and if so – why isn’t everyone switching to Linux on the basis of that metric alone.

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23 Comments »

  1. Edward Miller said,

    February 5, 2010 @ 5:32 am

    Linux is amazing, and Ubuntu in particular has made it especially easy for desktop users.

    Can’t argue with free, and from a developer standpoint the freedom to edit the code is phenomenal.

    Open source software only gets faster and more efficient with each release. Boot times are insanely fast now, and getting faster. Installation is ridiculously simple. It can even be installed inside of Windows now, for the people who don’t want to burn a CD.

    The only reason desktop users are not doing this is because their computers come with Windows or Mac OS pre-installed. In fact it is pretty hard to find ones without any crap pre-installed. Thus, the “Microsoft Tax” is hidden, and already paid for.

    Fortunately, netbooks make the tax impossible to ignore, since the price of Windows could be more than the entire computer. Microsoft has had to sell Windows for peanuts so that netbook vendors don’t ship with Linux, but that still hasn’t stopped the increasing adoption.

    It used to be that certain proprietary programs were relatively difficult to install, which is why linux used to have a bad reputation for usability.

    Now, proprietary drivers can be detected and downloaded automatically and if you want to install Adobe Flash, Amazon MP3 Player, Hulu Desktop, Skype, and all other sorts of programs, you are given linux as an option (usually in both 32 bit and 64 bit varieties!) and installation is basically one click. Additionally, great open source alternatives exist for the vast majority of proprietary software and drivers.

    I fully agree with wiping Windows from your system. I haven’t had a need for it either. In the rare instances there is a need, WINE (winehq.org) can often be suitable. You just download the package called wine in the software center, and then you will be able to run windows exe files and so forth just by double clicking them.

  2. Mark said,

    February 5, 2010 @ 7:27 am

    A typical reason people avoid Linux is that they have apps they can’t live without that run on Windows. For example, I have to run ESRI ArcGIS products and Intuit Quickbooks
    for my business.

    I’ve had a lot of luck with running these in a virtual machine. I installed the free VMware Player on my laptop, and converted my Windows computers to virtual machines with the also free VMware Converter. Now I can run a virtual computer with any operating system and software within a window on my laptop.

    You still need a Microsoft license to run Windows in a VM, but at least you can run legacy computers and software while you look for ways to replace them.

    VMware gives away these free products in the hopes you buy their flagship products,
    but I’ve been using the free stuff for a couple years now without feeling the need to upgrade. There are other (including pure open source) virtual machine solutions, but I haven’t tried them.

  3. Matthew - OrangeComputer said,

    February 5, 2010 @ 8:53 am

    I’m very glad you went with a Dell Latitude D820. I use Ubuntu 9.10 on a Latitude D620, the smaller model. They are great laptops and very reliable. In my computer store, I only sell used Dell business line desktops and laptops as I can trust their build quality much more than other brand names.

    I’m glad you were able to get some reliable tools and I look forward to your success!

  4. David said,

    February 5, 2010 @ 5:38 pm

    Hi,

    Linux is much better than Windows if you don’t neet to use apps that work only on Win. But such apps are mostly games, so Windows starts to be system for children :)
    Ubuntu is quite good but I prefer Debian. You would appriciate Debian, when you realize that after a 6 month you need to reinstall Ubuntu becouse the new version is released. So with Ubuntu you have the same problem as with Windows – reinstallation after some time.
    Debian is much more better because you don’t need to reinstall – you can just make online upgrade to newer version which always works whithout any problems. Just try Debian – it’s not difficult as it was in the past years.

    Regards

  5. GregE said,

    February 6, 2010 @ 5:58 pm

    To watch videos just install VLC and set audio to alsa.

    Install Gnome-alsamixer and use that to control sound. You will probably find the sound in movie player is not working because the pcm level is set to zero.

    lastly, you probably could have left pulseaudio installed and just configured KDE apps to bypass it and go straight to Alsa.

    For movie editing Openshot is coming along nicely and is worth a look – like all got GNU/Linux programs it costs nothing to try.

    cheers

  6. Links 6/2/2010: GNOME Journal Released, ARM CEO Sees Bright Future | Boycott Novell said,

    February 6, 2010 @ 6:46 pm

    [...] Ubuntu 9.10 on Dell Latitude D820 Laptop All in all, I am very pleased with the clean look and speedy performance of Ubuntu 9.10 on the Dell D820. Linux has come a long way, and now looks totally professional, especially on a high resolution screen. It certainly feels like I’m using serious computing power, and the fact that it’s open source, free, and so adaptable – is just inspiring. Thanks to the leagues of open source developers out there who created an amazing system, which in my opinion is clearly superior to Windows on the basis of speed, flexibility, and cost. I’d like to hear from others if they also have similar opinions on the speed issues – and if so – why isn’t everyone switching to Linux on the basis of that metric alone. [...]

  7. Justin said,

    February 8, 2010 @ 3:55 am

    I just recently got a D420 (same generation, compact version). It’s an amazing laptop. 9.10 installed faster than the update drivers for windows. (I did do dual boot, and it took 12hrs to load all of the @$@#$ patches) The only thing that required special attention was the WiFi chip, which installed proprietary drivers automatically, as long as I was plugged into the wired network during install.

    LOVE THIS LAPTOP!!

    That said, 3G support isn’t prime time yet. :( It works, but you have to work for it.

  8. David said,

    February 8, 2010 @ 7:58 am

    I too have been running Ubuntu, starting with 8.04, now with 9.10, on the D820 for about 2 1/2 years now. I have had really no trouble at all. I’m not sure I can go back to a laptop that doesn’t have this screen res.

  9. LucasG said,

    February 8, 2010 @ 8:03 am

    Video is important cos that’s how we’ll work together as developers. Most of us with a reprap or a flower pot, some with larger and more complex systems, a few documenting other people’s work. So it’s good to know that those applications are coming along nicely.

  10. Abe said,

    February 8, 2010 @ 8:38 am

    In my opinion and without going through details, Linux surpassed both Windows & Apple OSX, period.

    Some people say not all hardware is supported by Linux, that is an old perception and no longer valid. Now a days, it is very rare to find hardware that Linux doesn’t support.

    Some people say they can’t switch to Linux because they have apps. that only run on Windows, That is not a real reason. VirtualBox does an excellent job on getting around this problem.

    The real reason is the damage MS done to the confidence of computer users. They are scared to change anything on their computers afraid it will become useless and have to re-install from scratch. They are afraid to lose their applications, e-mail, Internet access, and worse, losing their data and can’t or don’t know how to recover it. You can’t find many people who didn’t have disastrous computer encounters. Heck, many people don’t even patch their machines afraid that the patch is going to ruin their functioning computer, or at least losing few functionalities here and there.

    Computer users who don’t know Linux are also afraid of Linux just the same way. They don’t know how robust and reliable Linux is compared to Windows. They don’t know that Linux is highly modular and what plagues Windows doesn’t necessarily plague Linux.

    Most novice users go with the status quo, don’t fix it if isn’t broke, and why should I have to go through the process of switching? and if Linux is much better than Windows, OEMs would have offered new PCs with Linux pre-installed. They don’t know or realize what they are missing until they see Linux in action on someone else’s computer. That is when they ask themselves the big question, Why can’t I have or want that? or Where can I get that

  11. lyle howard seave said,

    February 8, 2010 @ 8:59 am

    Im typing this from my mom’s laptop which is running Linux on a Celeron based Acer tank (too heavy to be called a laptop).

    A few things, a 2nd hand laptop is not ‘brand new’. You sound like a car salesmen and their ‘brand new 2nd hand car’ spiel.

    Mark above is right. You might not want to take space with a dual boot but using a VM program to access some Windows programs that you absolutely need is a must. My dad has been using Mandriva Linux for about a year and using Virtualbox is simple.

    David brings up a good point about having to upgrade your distro every six months. I prefer using rolling distros for family that doesnt live nearby. And the one thing my more technicaly advanced Linux newbies always ask is why arent updated versions of programs available in the repositories when they come out instead of waiting for the next version to come out.

    >Ubuntu in particular
    No, stop spreading hype.
    The top distros are all excellent and just a touch different from each other. Ubuntu doesnt make it easier (seriously, how long will it take for them to have something else than the ugly DOS black and white dualboot screen? Other distros have managed to make it less jarring for 3-4 years at least. I remember dualbooting into a laptop I lent a friend so he could try Linux and when he saw the dualboot menu with white text on black, he went “Oh no, what just happened?” That is NOT user friendly.)

    I get the distro of the moment hype (we have Kubuntu on two machines) but having used Mandriva for the past decade as well as PCLinuxOS, Mint (two derivatives of Mandriva and Ubuntu which are BETTER than their original… not better, just more polished) it gets tiring hearing hype.

    Actually, show a newbie a few different distros using the same desktop and you always get a “isnt this the same thing”.

    Which brings me to my last point: distros dont matter. I dare you to install Kubuntu, OpenSuse and Mandriva side by side by side and then try to spot the differences that arent cosmetic. Having a different wallpaper or icons by default is not it. Go ahead, see if you can spot the differences. You know why they are identical? They use the same desktops.
    I think that the choice to be made when dealing with newbies is not the distro but the desktop.
    I’ve done about 40-50 installs at LUGfests and another dozen or so in my private time with family and friends and when you offer Live CD’s to people they unvariably choose KDE desktop (about 3/4 of the time). Its easy to see why. Everyone uses Windows and KDE looks like it. I dont mean just the bottom taskbar (you could move it back in XP but you wont believe how many people get thrown off by this) but also the look and feel of the fonts and such due to its use of GTK.

    That’s why I think every review has to mention the desktop choices.

    (disclosure: we use KDE at home and my reasons have to do with control. I like the desktop to suit my needs not some ‘flow expert’ who thinks that 8pt fonts are so much more elegant. I want to be able to adjust and modfiy the desktop to my needs, not someone elses. My favorite desktop is E17 however.)

    I’ve had quite a few people come to me and at LUGfests with their Dell Mini netbooks and tell me they hate their DellBuntu OS. Ugly wasnt even the worse thing they said about it… depressing, lifeless, drab and worse that Windows 95 comes to mind.

    We have the fortune of giving people a choice of desktops that they like and cant feel confortable with,not that others will tell them they will like, we should use it to make people feel at home.
    Old hardware? XCFE is your friend of course.

    Good thing you mentioned KDEnlive, I havent upgraded yet to the new one.
    When switching over to Linux, people ask me about a few things constantly.
    Can I DL my digital pix? Digikam is the best in its field. Watch videos? If you are family, you were using already on Win the great VLC: the apps that made us forget the codec dance. IM? Skype is it and if you need a Trillian like multi-IM program, Kopete was last i heard still the only IM that could do Yahoo video. Viewing pictures? If you liked Irfanview on Windows, then Gvenview is for you. For Mp3, you can have the Itunes like Songbird, the easily modified Amarok and the Winampish XMMS2.

    But video was still behind (actually audio in Linux is still a mess) until recently thanks to KDEnlive.
    People dont need Premiere like apps for their everyday life, they need something like Window MovieMaker (or whatever its called) that comes with Windows. Something you can take videos from your digital camera, transition together and add a soundtrack or a few still pictures.
    Our grade school kids and their friends used KDEnlive without any prior knowledge of it and managed the same day to upload on Youtube a clip of their skateboard exploits (falls).

    This was the program I was looking for some time and was thrilled when I discovered it.
    Im going right after this to the KDEnlive site and getting the new version.

    Cheers!

    LHS

  12. vikram said,

    February 8, 2010 @ 11:47 am

    Long time Ubuntu user switched over to Mandriva because I got sick of the bugs. Most of my friends who are new to Linux loved KDE on Mandriva. Its truely turnkey unlike Ubuntu where you need to fool around with codecs.

    Another reason why windows users like Mandriva with KDE is the control center which is similar to windows control center.

    FYI – I now am a happy Arch linux user. Once you get used to rolling releases you never go back to waiting for 6 months for the next version

    written on Konqueror on windows !

  13. Links 8/2/2010: Linux 2.6.33 RC7 and Parsix GNU/Linux 3.0r2 Released | Boycott Novell said,

    February 8, 2010 @ 5:43 pm

    [...] Ubuntu 9.10 on Dell Latitude D820 Laptop The PowerBook G4 Mac in the house finally quit working. We splurged $300 on a brand new laptop recently. We got a 3 year old Dell Latitude D820 from Craigslist. With 2.16 GHz Intel Core Duo, and 1920×1200 screen resolution – that makes for an impressive system with Ubuntu 9.10 installed. [...]

  14. Kelley said,

    February 8, 2010 @ 6:22 pm

    This is a way cool idea.
    I almost got a D820 on ebay for $310 but was outbid.

    Then I decided to tale a look at the Dell website and I ordered my wife a Inspiron 15 for $399.

    I’ll be loading Ubuntu on it as soon as it arrives.

    Thanks for the idea!

  15. Kelley said,

    February 13, 2010 @ 6:46 pm

    OK.

    I just one the bid for a D820 for $238.49.

    I’m really looking forward to trying this!

  16. Marcin said,

    February 16, 2010 @ 6:12 pm

    Kelley, let us know how it turns out.

  17. Open Source Permaculture and Local Food Systems – Open Source Ecology | The Green Life said,

    March 6, 2010 @ 4:43 pm

    [...] Ubuntu 9.10 on Dell Latitude D820 Laptop | Open Source Ecology [...]

  18. nelson said,

    March 19, 2010 @ 6:58 pm

    I’ve been running 9.10 for the last three months. I am completely off the microsoft grid and I have never looked back.

  19. sam said,

    March 23, 2010 @ 6:39 pm

    Please post your Linux compatibility reviews for this product at http://ubuntuhcl.org/browse/product+dell-latitude-d820?id=502

  20. Peter said,

    April 27, 2010 @ 4:23 am

    Did you test SUSPEND TO RAM.
    My experience is that this feature does not work properly on most laptops; even with Ubuntu 9.1. Please notice this before rating a 5 for HCL

  21. Marcin said,

    May 9, 2010 @ 2:20 pm

    I upgraded to Ubuntu 10.04. Sound problems were present. After doing this:

    sudo aptitude purge adobe-flashplugin

    This removed the last flash plugin from Synaptic so then I did the following to re-install flash

    sudo aptitude install flashplugin-nonfree

    Now sound works, and Skype works, too. I just had to configure System>Preferences>Sound to Analog Stereo Duplex profile under Hardware, I unmuted Microphone 2 Input (Internal Audio Analog Stereo) for headphone input.

    I found this advice at http://www.willmcgugan.com/blog/tech/2010/5/2/no-audio-in-flash-on-ubuntu-1004/

  22. Marcin said,

    June 1, 2010 @ 5:08 pm

    Just got a Sansa Clip mp3 player, and it would not auto detect. I switched Settings>USB Mode to MSC, and then it was detected properly in Ubuntu 10.04.

    Experience with 10.04 is great so far. Everything works, including Skype, QCad, Blender, and others.

  23. Dave said,

    November 27, 2012 @ 1:43 pm

    I’m new to linux, and I had a choice of a new laptop on Win8 or reformat my XP D820. I went for the latter, and opted for Ubunto – and thus far I’m really impressed with the speed, though I can’t get the soundcard to work, and I’m not sure where to get the drivers from.

    How did you get your working?

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