Archive for October, 2007

Mandriva 2008 vs Suse 10.3 vs Ubuntu 7.10 on an Averatec 2370

When I purchased Averatec 2370 last year, I thought I was getting a good deal on an ultra-portable laptop. Two warranty repairs later, I no longer think the same. To pour salt in the wound, Averatec 2370 does not work properly with Vista. Due to a BIOS incompatibility, Vista only runs at the processor’s lowest speed. When I close the laptop lid, the laptop’s screen goes blank and never comes back from sleep. How can anyone claim to be Vista compatible with these problems? Both Averatec and Microsoft should be ashamed! Annoyed, I had a thought; can Linux succeed where Microsoft and Averatec have failed?

I had previously failed to install Linux on the Averatec 2370. The two areas that all distros failed in were the wireless and suspend to RAM. Now that Suse 10.3, Mandriva 2008, and Ubuntu 7.10 have recently been release. It was time to try again.

Unlike the other reviews, I will mostly concentrate on hardware detection and support. Based on past experience, Averatec 2370 is not a particularly Linux friendly machine. What I am interested is to install the Linux on the laptop and have all of the hardware working with a minimum amount of configuration. In all cases, I put in the install CD and default install overwriting everything on the hard disk. I then get access to the internet and do an update.

Mandriva 2008.0 (KDE)

Mandriva installed quickly with a graphical wizard. The distro detected the screen properly and automatically install the Nividia proprietary display driver and offered the choice of none, Metisse, and Compiz. I chose Compiz. The wireless card was detected properly and I was able to select the WPA-PSK options. Unfortunately, the wireless driver did not actually work.

There are two annoying problems with the installer. Some of the screens wizard screens do not have a back button, so if you make a mistake, you cannot go back. When the installer ends, it doesn’t reboot the machine but leaves you at the command line. You have to press CTRL-D to logout (most people will probably just turn off the machine).

When I did reboot the computer, it boots into a blank screen. After playing around, I realized that it’s freezing on the splash screen. Turn off the computer and boot again. When you see the startup menu (grub), press F2 for options and remove from the end of the boot line “vga=788” to get past the splash screen. Next we need to remove the bad vga entry from the boot parameter. Login and click on the Control Center icon at the bottom task bar and click on the Boot tab. Click on the choice “Set up boot system” and wait. Click on the next button. Click on modify button to modify the default grub menu. Expand the Advance options and set the options to 640×480 16 bpp and press OK. Press the finish button and reboot the laptop.

The touchpad was correctly detected, but I could find no GUI option to configure it. I ended up editing the xorg.conf file manually to remove the tap click.

Suspend to RAM and Suspend to Disk both failed. In both cases, suspend were both successful, but when we wake from RAM, we get a blank screen. When the laptop wakes from disk, flicking garbage appears on the screen. The wireless driver was able to connect to a public network, but I was unable to connect to a WPA-PSK router.

All in all, I am impressed by Mandriva but found that the disto isn’t completely compatible with my laptop.

SUSE 10.3 (Gnome)

SUSE is the only distro without a live CD. Unlike Mandriva or Ubuntu, you cannot test the disto on your machine before you install. The installer was easy to follow but took over an hour to install everything. I suspect that it was because it was downloading packages from the net. Installation would probably be faster if I had use the DVD instead of the CD. The installer correctly detected the 1280×800 LCD. The installer initially detected the RT73 wireless card, but the drivers failed so I had no wireless.

After the installation, I attempted to fix the wireless problem but it appears that I would have to download and compile a new drivers. To make things worse, neither suspend to RAM nor suspend to disk works. In either case, the laptop would appear to suspend, only to drop back to the enter password screen. Attempts to run s2ram with different parameters all failed. In each case, suspend is always halted.

The touchpad was correctly detected, but I could not find the configuration screen to turn off the touchpad tap clicking. I ended up editing the xorg.conf file manually to remove the tap click.

Unlike the other two distros, it isn’t quite that easy to install 3D desktop effects. Video files do not play because codec is missing.

All in all, I am not impressed at all with the SUSE 10.3 release. Suse used to be the best distro for laptop because of their laptop management support. It appears that they have fallen way behind the other two distros.

Ubuntu 7.10 (Gnome)

Ubuntu comes on a live CD that you can test before you install. The installer was easy to follow and install the disto quickly. Like the other two distros, the screen was detected correctly at 1280×800. Surprisingly, the wireless worked right out of the box with WPA. On the downside, there is a bit of instability to the wireless drivers. I have had a few cases where the wireless driver lost the connection.

Unlike Mandriva, the proprietary driver is not installed by default. You have to install it using the restricted driver. If you want 3D, you have to go to a different screen to enable it. In this case, you should install the proprietary driver because suspend to ram will not work properly without it.

The touchpad is correctly detected and there is a GUI option to turn off the touchpad tap. The product does not come with any codec, but the OS automatically prompt you to install it if attempt to use a codec that it does not have.

Conclusion

The clear winner is Ubuntu. It is the only distro that seems to work mostly out of the box. It is the only distro where wireless and suspend worked even though I had to install the proprietary driver to get it to work.

I have to admit that Ubuntu has never been my favorite distro. From my point of view, it’s one of the ugliest distros and is heavily hyped. Yet there is substance behind the hype, the distro over the years have always managed to be just a little bit better than its competitor especially in its laptop support. It’s managed to won me over despite my dislike of it.

Note that all distros were much easier to install than Vista. Unlike Linux, I had to search and download drivers from the manufacturer to get Vista to work. Even when all of the drivers were installed, the computer ran at half the clock speed and had broken power management.

Linux is not perfect. There are still some problems, particularly with the wireless. None of the distro have drivers for the modem. The difference between Vista and Linux is that one day; the problems I encountered with my laptop will most likely be fixed. The problems I have with Vista will most likely not be fixed, so I am saying goodbye to Vista on the Averatec 2370.

 

Mandriva 2008 KDE Suse 10.3 Ubuntu 7.10
Dual Core support

Yes

Yes

Yes

Display      
  Detect 1280×800 LCD

Yes

Yes

Yes

  Detect Video card

Yes

Yes

Yes

  3D Desktop effects

Yes

No

Yes

Audio

Yes

Yes

Yes

Touchpad

Yes, but can’t figure out how to turn off tap without editing xorg.conf

Yes, but can’t figure out how to turn off tap without editing xorg.conf

Yes

Power Management      
  Suspend to RAM

No

No

Yes, but only when using Proprietary Nvidia drivers.

  Suspend to Disk

No

No

Yes

Modem

No

No

No

Ethernet

Yes

Yes

Yes

Wireless      
  Public

Yes

Yes

Yes

  WPA-PSK

No

No

Yes

Play Flash

Yes

Yes

Yes, but autodownload of codec was needed.

Play mp3

Yes

Yes

Yes

Play Xvid

Yes

No

Yes, but autodownload of codec was needed.

Play DVD

No

No

No

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October 31, 2007 at 3:16 pm 16 comments

DTS is ignoring my failure workflow

Recently, I  created a simple DTS that sends a email when a task failed. The email is an ActiveX program that reads the email config from an INI file and is linked to the other task via a failure workflow link. So when the task fails, the email task is activated. I then attempt to simulate a failure by RAISERROR. Much to my surprise, the entire task halted instead and the error task is never called.

In my case, the problem turns out to be a configuration issue. If you right-click on the DTS package and get “Package Properties”. Click on the Logging tab, uncheck the “Fail package on the first error”. If this option is checked, the entire DTS stops before the error task can run.

October 1, 2007 at 2:39 pm 1 comment


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